The Dynamics of American Politics: Approaches and Interpretations

By Lawrence C. Dodd; Calvin Jillson | Go to book overview

Normative analysis is thus integrally built into any understanding of politics. To judge a political system, we need to ask not only how power or persuasion is used but whether it is being used legitimately. To make such a judgment, political science needs both close empirical observation and a philosophical probing of ideals. Recognizing the role of normative judgment, political science alone among the social sciences has nourished its apparatus for investigating normative ideals as well as its apparatus for investigating empirical data.

In the philosophical arena, the most influential recent investigations have tended to see politics as concerned only with legitimate persuasion and not with legitimate power. In the empirical arena, the most influential modern investigations have until recently tended to see politics as concerned only with power and not with persuasion. For the future, an integrated investigation of both normative ideals and the empirical workings of government requires the two branches of research to widen their scope to include the study of both power and persuasion.


NOTES

Portions of this chapter were adapted from "A Deliberate Theory of Interest Representation" in The politics of Interests: Interest Groups Transformed, edited by Mark P. Petracca ( Westview, 1992).

1
I define "power" as A's preferences causing B to do something that B would otherwise not do, through A's use of force or threat of sanction. I define "persuasion" as A causing B to do something B would otherwise not do, through A's arguments aimed at furthering B's own goals, broadly defined. Such arguments appeal to reason, emotion, and to conceptions of self that may not exist in the consciousness of the persuaded before the appeal. In deriving these definitions I draw loosely from Dahl ( 1957) as revised by Nagel ( 1975), and Bachrach and Baratz ( 1963) as revised by Lukes ( 1974). The concept of persuasion has not received as much attention as the concept of power. (See Mansbridge, 1992, for the roles of both reason and emotion in persuasion.)

Ordinary language does not produce an airtight distinction between "power" and "persuasion." A broad conception of power, as A getting B to do something that B would not otherwise do through any means, includes persuasion. Moreover, in practice it is hard to distinguish between A threatening B with an external social sanction, which under my definition would count as "power," and A activating within B an internal sanction (e.g., B's own feeling of guilt), which under my definition would count as "persuasion." Although these concepts shade into one another in ordinary usage and in practice, normative political judgments and longterm predictions of behavior rest on the distinction between the two.

2
See Mansbridge, 1990c. Some social scientists interpret all motives as "self-interested." Indeed, tautologically, if an action were not in some sense in one's interest, one would not do it. This collapsing of distinctions, however, does more harm than good. Much analytic and moral reasoning requires a distinction between self-

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